I’ve stopped trying. I’ve stopped forcing it. I’ve given up on the dream.
Like so many other mums before me, I’ve made the decision to put my breasts away and to do what I never intended. Exclusively bottle feed.
Apparently, there’s no shame in it, but I still feel guilty. Every time I see a photo on Instagram of a mum breastfeeding her child or pass a mum feeding at a baby group and making it look natural or easy, I feel a pang of jealousy.
Every time someone asks me if I’m still breastfeeding, I feel like a fraud.
I’m not breastfeeding… but I am lactating. I’m still giving my milk. For now. As long as I have my breast pump, I can keep mix feeding.
But knowing my twins will never feed from me again, that they have finished that phase of their lives, that our time breastfeeding is completed… over? It makes me sad inside.
Already I’ve committed it to memory.
Those days at the hospital trying to get them to latch, their tiny noses lost against my skin. The chapped nipples and pain. The day my milk came in. Expressing a tiny 30ml for the first time. The feeling of accomplishment when they were feeding and sleepy afterwards.
The feelings of frustration when they were hungry after feeding, or when I had to correct the latch on each breast while tandem feeding. The feelings of hopelessness that it was never going to work, the feelings of satisfaction and maternal pride when it did.
Breastfeeding takes every mother on a journey and it starts and ends with two emotions; love and guilt.
Despite the benefits of breastmilk and despite the fact that formula is as good a substitute as there can be, the fact remains that giving your breastmilk is an act of love. How do you know when to stop when you want to show how much you love them?
Giving your breastmilk is an act of love.
Rightly or wrongly, giving breastmilk is associated as a sign of your love for your child.
It’s the best thing for them. But what if they don’t want it?
Living the #pumplife and #exclusivelyexpressing puts you in the situation where you’ve got the power to decide when enough is enough. Your baby will take what’s in the bottle, but you have to decide when to stop giving them expressed breast milk and move over to 100 per cent formula feeding.
But the #pumplife is lonely. There’s no maternal bonding. It’s a job. Attach and pump. Get the goods out. Get Milked.
I can’t help but ask myself a few conflicting questions…
If I stop expressing, in some way will I be doing wrong by my children? Taking the easy way out?
If I move over to full formula will I be showing that I love them any less?
For as long as my pump allows me to make milk, shouldn’t I do that for them?
How much do I really need that time back to myself?
Am I being selfish to want that hour and a half back in my day?
Surely I’ve done enough?
When will I know that it’s time to turn off the pump?
Throughout my pregnancy I was determined that I would breast feed my babies and give them my milk. To me it just made sense. My body would do what was required and the babies would know what to do as well.
Finally I could use my breasts for their rightful purpose. My babies would grow strong on my milk which would be personalised exactly to their needs, providing the right antibodies and protection and nutrients.
Like many mums though, I struggled with breastfeeding. I resent even writing that sentence.
It was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world.
But it wasn’t as straight forward as all that. For starters breastfeeding twins is double the work and feeding twins on demand was always going to be a difficult prospect.
Pretty soon, I needed help, I needed a break, and so we began mix feeding, using formula milk and expressed breast milk so that I could feed using bottles and allow my partner or mum to take over when I needed. I can’t stress enough how much formula has been a life saver and how much of a help it has been in enabling my babies to grow and enabling me to breast feed as well. Without it, my breastfeeding experience would have been a lot shorter.
But, as time went by the babies preferred their fast flow teat to breastfeeding, and it makes my heart heavy to realise that I’ve already given my babies their last breastfeeds. Now they refuse the nipple and will only drink from bottles.
I’m not the only mum to believe wholeheartedly in the goodness of breastmilk and I’m not the only one to have struggled with breastfeeding or mix feeding. That’s why I’m still pumping. To bridge the gap. To do my best. To make myself feel better. To give them the best of what I can. To hold onto that baby bond. To make me feel like we’re still physically connected in some way…
Every breastfeeding journey is different, some are long and rewarding, some are short and painful, some are full of ups and downs and surprising twists and turns…. But they all start with the sound of a newborn cry.
And some? Some end with the sound of button being turned off.
The pump put to rest.
Breasts closed for business.
What’s your experience of breastfeeding? Did you express exclusively? How long for?
Lots of love
Image by Jutta Klee